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Beautiful Little Barley, Beetroot and Black-Eyed Pea Salad

 

I very rarely make pulse or grain based dishes, yet am always drawn to them when on a menu at a restaurant, particularly any restaurant that offers culinary fare that has its origins in the Middle-East. I love the taste and texture of dishes made with lentils, varieties of beans and in particular pearl barley. In fact pearl barley has always been that homely grain that in my mind always sits wonderfully in a beefy broth. Most of my pulse intake as a kid was limited to a well-known brand of baked bean, although I must say that my grandma and mum did both make a wonderful ham shank and lentil soup, which I absolutely loved and would welcome with open arms (or a dropped mandible) if it was put in front of me now. Black-eyed peas had always fascinated me and hearing of them used in a dish such as black-eyed peas, chicken and stuffing again, I find, has a real family and homely ring to it – actually that dish I’ve just mentioned I’m sure is a lyric in one of the songs from the group  with the same name as the aforementioned pulse.

However, it was during last year’s World Cup that I became more intimately acquainted with the black-eyed pea when I cooked the dish acarajé – a Brasilian deep fried fritter. From there I experimented with a combination of black-eyed pea and pearl barley when I created the dish ‘Slow Braised Lamb with Barley and Black-Eyed Pea Pilaf‘. But I’ve always wanted to do a salad with them and for a while I have envisioned them in combination with fresh mint, olive oil and some lemony zest.

From a preparatory perspective pearl barley and black-eyed peas are one of the few grains/ pulses that do not require an overnight soaking, and can be simmered to a perfect consistency in under an hour. Using them as a base I decided to go with the combination of those aforementioned flavours – you know the mint, olive oil and lemon – but found these alone were not enough to constitute a balanced and hearty salad. I opted on adding an earthy sweetness; roasted red beetroot was a perfect contender. I then added chopped ripe tomatoes for that hit of umami and a crunchy refresher in the form of diced cucumber. Finally, the mint alone, although really good, needed some herby foil, and parsley fit that role to a tee. And there we have it, Barley, Beetroot and Black-Eyed Pea Salad.

 

Serves: 4 as a main or up to 10 as an accompaniment
Preparation: 30 minutes soaking + 30 minutes Prep.
Cooking: 1 hour (most prep. can be done during cooking)

Ingredients:

For the Salad:
200g  Pearl barley |
150g  Black-eyed peas |
1 medium-large  Beetroot | Peeled and diced into 1 cm cubes.
Glug  Olive oil |
Seasoning  Sea salt and cracked black pepper |
Spring onions | Outer layer removed, cleaned and cut into 1cm pieces – both white and light green parts.
Lebanese cucumber | Diced. That’s a small cucumber – if using the larger European variety deseed and use half of it.
2 medium  Ripe tomatoes | Peeled, deseeded and diced.*
1  bunch  Fresh mint | Finely chopped.
½ bunch  Fresh parsley | Finely chopped.

 

For the Dressing:
1 lemon  Zest of | Finely grated.
2 lemons  Juice of |
The tomato liquid  from the discarded seeds | Optional (see below) – but it does add great flavour.
200ml  Olive oil |

Salt and pepper to taste
Drizzle of olive oil to finish

*Preparing tomatoes like this is known as concasse. To peel the tomatoes score the skin at the tomato base with a cross and put the tomatoes in boiling water for about 10 seconds. Transfer them to ice cold water for about 20 seconds. The skins should be easy to peel. Cut the tomatoes into quarters and scoop out the seeds and any hard core. Retain these for a little trick. Dice the remaining tomato flesh.

The seeds and jelly like substance around the seeds contain a lot of tomato flavour and that amazing taste, umami. It’s a shame to waste it so take the seeds, jelly and any other bits of discarded flesh and blitz them in a miniature food processor until a smooth pulp is formed. Push this pulp through a fine sieve and you’ll be left with a fantastic tomato liquid – use this in the recipe here.

 

Method:

In separate bowls soak the pearl barley and black-eyed peas in enough cold water to cover them. After 30 minutes drain the pearl barley and rinse. With the black-eyed peas, gently scrunch them in your hands whilst still under water to loosen the skins. Remove the skins (this is finicky and requires patience but the reward is in the eating) and then drain and rinse the black-eyed peas – it’s nigh impossible to remove all skins, so a few left on won’t spoil your dish.

Put the pearl barley and black-eyed peas in a large pan together with a couple of pinches of salt and cover with cold water so that the level of water is twice the depth of the barley and peas. Bring to the boil and then turn the heat down and gently simmer for 45 minutes.

In the meantime – preheat an oven to 200 deg. C (390 deg. F). Put the diced beetroot in to a roasting tin and then season with sea salt and cracked black pepper. Drizzle over a glug olive oil and mix until all the beetroot is covered. Put in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes,  or until softened but still having some resistance. Put aside to cool.

When the barley and peas are cooked, drain and then wash with cold water until completely cooled down. Drain all excess water until the peas and barley are dry.

For the dressing, add the lemon, lemon zest and tomato liquid (if your are using it) to a medium sized bowl. Now slowly drizzle in the olive oil whilst vigorously whisking. Once all the oil has been added you should have consistent dressing i.e. not split. Taste and season accordingly.

To construct the salad add the peas, barley, roasted beetroot, spring onions, cucumber, tomatoes, mint and parsley to a large salad bowl. Gently mix with a large metal spoon taking care not to squash the peas or barley (this can be stored in the fridge up until service). Just prior to serving drizzle over the dressing and gently mix. Taste. If you’re elated with it then drizzle over a little olive oil and serve**.

Serve in big portions as a main or in smaller portions as an accompaniment.

 

**If you think it needs a little more then add extra mint, parsley, squeezes of lemon and/ or seasoning according to your taste, gently mix and then add a drizzle of olive oil.

Vietnamese Red Cabbage Salad

Introduction:

I recall being sat in the middle of steamy kitchen in a small town in Thailand; the two women speaking melodically in their native tongue. There was giggling, laughter and the percussion like sound of the wooden pestle pounding against the hardwood mortar. It was 7 in the morning and breakfast was being prepared.

I was here on a stopover prior to an adventure in the sub-continent, but it was here, in this kitchen, with these two ladies that my adventure began. I sat mesmerised at the high energy these ladies exerted whilst pounding the ingredients, especially in the humid heat. And yet they made it look easy, whilst smiling and maintaining a high octane conversation. Momentarily they would look up at me, look at each other, and then giggle before continuing the grind, as it were.

The next part is what I distinctly remember; moreover as it was something I had never seen before. One of the ladies showed me a large fruit item – which a few days after I learnt to be green papaya – and then began to fervently lacerate it with a large old looking chopping knife, more akin to a bone cleaver. Then she delicately shaved it and away peeled hundreds of finely formed ribbons. I noted this down in my mind’s journal, and years later I recall it as I am preparing a Vietnamese salad in the confines of a Melbourne kitchen; although this time with a carrot.

Given its close proximity to Vietnam there are many similarities in the flavour profile of the food from Thailand; the enchanting mix of the sweet, salt and sourness underpinned with garlic and chilli. And a great Vietnamese salad is very much about shredding and tearing, much like that which occurred those years ago in the steamy Thai kitchen.

Green papaya can be difficult to find and so I have substituted it for red cabbage which with carrot makes a visually stunning salad. I am very fortunate to be living very close to ‘Little Vietnam’ here in Melbourne so have great access to most of the herbs that I found and tasted when in Thailand and Vietnam. This salad has been carefully developed on and off over a few months, mainly to get a great balance of flavour; but there is everything right in you trying to find your perfect blend of herbs and flavours, using this as a base.

 

Serves: 2 to 4   |   Preparation: 30 minutes   |   Cooking: at least 30 minutes resting

 

Ingredients:

150g Red cabbage | finely shredded, known as chiffonade.
24 leaves Asian (Thai) basil |
24 leaves Vietnamese mint |
24 leaves Mint |
24 small sprigs Coriander | a small sprig is about 3 leaves.
24 leaves Perilla |
1 Carrot | peeled and shredded/ finely julienned.
1 serving Nuoc Cham | click here for recipe.

 

 

How To:

Prepare the nuoc cham at least half an hour before serving the salad in order for the ingredients to become intimately acquainted.

Place the Asian basil, Vietnamese mint, mint, coriander and perilla leaves in a bowl of iced water for about 5 minutes, to freshen and crisp. Remove the leaves from the water and roughly tear in to a large bowl. Add the shredded red cabbage and carrot. Mix with your hands.

A minute before serving add the nuoc cham to the salad and thoroughly, but carefully, mix with your hands so the herbs, cabbage and carrot are coated in the dressing. Leave the salad to marinade for one minute and then serve.

I find plating this salad using a hand has two benefits: firstly, most of excess liquid is drained and therefore there are no large ‘puddles’ on the plate; and secondly, it is easier to shape the salad on the plate.

 

Notes:

  • This is an incredibly versatile salad and goes particularly well with a medium rib-eye steak fillet, an extremely good quality pork sausage or even pan-fried snapper.

Pig’s Head and Potato Pie with Pig’s Ear, Sorrel, Spinach and Parsley Salad

Introduction:

There were murmurs around the room as the compère made the next announcement. To some it was heaven, to others it was a fence-sitter and to the rest it was a face-scruncher. It was going to come from one of New York’s finest, a talent that had titillated the culinary streets of New York and had stirred the innards and keyboards of the mumblers and meanderers of the gastro-critique fraternity.

The next will be bone marrow with a parsley salad, and here to show us how it’s done is Gabrielle Hamilton from Prune Restaurant in New York – Hands together if you please.

Inspired by the nose to tail genius that is Fergus Henderson, who was also in the building, Gabrielle captivated the audience no more so by the fact that amongst all the rare and expensive ingredients being manipulated by some exquisite chefs in this Master Class in Melbourne, it would be a humble piece of bone with its gelatinous and oozy marrow, and an ever so simple parsley salad with classic vinaigrette that would shine, and turn those fence sitters in to converts and the face-scrunchers to fence sitters.

It was 2008 and this was the year that I truly started to think about the wonders of offal, or the ‘other’ parts of what we carnivores have on offer to eat, but often choose not to. As the next course of fried veal sweetbreads and bacon was served I delighted at the unctuously soft deep fried pancreas, and the horrors of being faced with tripe (the lining of a cows stomach) and onions as a child began to evolve  into thoughts of experience and knowledge.

I have recently been reading a book by the excellent writer and cook Jane Grigson, a beautifully written, in-depth look at ‘Charcuterie and French Pork Cookery’, first published in 1967. It has inspired me to think more about every part of the animal and the scope for some really tasty food. In conjunction with the marvellous and ‘iconic’ The Complete Nose to Tail by Fergus Henderson, I have for some while had a real desire to cook a pig’s head. As I have mentioned before (list post) I have access to a brilliant brilliant butcher who with a bit of luck and a fair wind can obtain virtually anything for carnivorous consumption.

Since, I have learnt that there a very stringent regulations on selling pigs’ heads based around the possible harmful bacteria that can sometimes be found in the pig’s mouth. As a consequence every pig’s head needs to be inspected before being released for consumption. This means that if inspectors are not present the head cannot be released. The upshot was that I had to wait about 3 weeks, but when I got the call to say it had arrived I was like a kid in a sweet shop. To do it justice, and as part of the learning process, I decided to do a slightly modified version of Fergus Henderson’s classic: Pig’s Head and Potato Pie with a Pig’s Ear, Sorrel, Spinach and Parsley Salad.

 

Serves: 6   |   Preparation:  1 hour give or take   |   Cooking: 5 hours

 

Ingredients:

For the Pig’s Head    
1 whole Pig’s Head | Best to get your butcher to cut it in half unless you have a 20 litre stock pot. I fit mine into an 11 litre stockpot when cut in half. Remove the pig’s ears.
2 Celery sticks | Roughly chopped.
2 large Carrots | Peeled and roughly chopped.
2 Brown onions | Roughly chopped.
1 head Garlic | Cut in half along the circumference so that each clove is in half.
5 sprigs Thyme | Tied together with the Parsley stalks.
1 bunch Parsley stalks | Lop off the stalks just below the leaves. Tie together with the Thyme.
4 Bay leaves |  Fresh bay leaves.
1.5 litres Chicken stock | This chicken stock is ideal.
350ml White wine | I used a chardonnay as I didn’t want anything too ‘fruity’.
To top up Cold water | As much cold water as needed to cover the pig’s head.
30 Black peppercorns | Tied in muslin with the white peppercorns.
10 White peppercorns | Tied in muslin with the black peppercorns.

For the Pie    
375g Puff pastry | Use a good quality butter puff pastry – I usually buy it unless I have time to make it.
1kg Potatoes | I used sebago, but King Edwards, desiree or Maris Pipers are great. Slice to a couple of mm thick with a sharp knife and a steady hand, or a mandolin.
¾ bunch Parsley | Leaves finely chopped. Leaves from the same bunch as the stalks above.
9 cloves Garlic | Finely sliced.
Seasoning Sea salt |
Seasoning Black pepper |  
1 Egg | Beaten.

For the Salad    
2 Pig’s ears | Assuming your pig’s head came with two ears!
1 litre or so | Cooking oil I use grapeseed or canola. This is used for frying.
A bunch Sorrel | Chiffonnade. This is a great zesty leaf.
2 handfuls Baby spinach | Leave whole.
¼ bunch Parsley | Picked Leaves.
3 tbsp. Capers in vinegar | Drain the capers. Small capers work better in this salad.

For the Vinaigrette    
1 clove Garlic |
1 tsp. Sea salt |
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard |
1 lemon Lemon juice | Freshly squeezed – no pips!
2 tsp. Rice wine vinegar |
250ml (1 cup) Olive oil |
To taste Black pepper | Freshly cracked.

 

 

How To:

For the Pig’s head: to a large stock pot add the pig’s head, celery sticks, carrots, onions, garlic, tied thyme and parsley stalks, bay leaves, chicken stock, white wine, and black and white peppercorn pouch.

Now add cold water until the pigs head is completely covered. Place the removed pig’s ears on top, but submerged under the liquid. Now bring the liquid to the boil, and then cover the pan with a lid and reduce the heat until the pot is murmuring (a gentle simmer). Leave this for 1 hour and remove the pig’s ears and gently rinse in cool water. Simmer the pig’s head for a further 2 hours. We want the flesh to just pull away from the pig.

Now comes the funky (messy) part. Remove the Pig’s head from the broth and allow to cool until you can safely handle it. I used a pair of clean Marigolds (dishwashing gloves) to do this next bit so I can do it whilst it is hot. Pull the flesh away from the head, separating meat from fat and bone. We want to keep all the meat; especially look out for the cheek meat – it’s just sensational. With the tongue you will need to peel away the tough membrane. Underneath you will find this incredibly rich meat with the consistency of ‘pulled pork’. Put all the meat into a clean bowl. The remaining broth can be strained (with the vegetables, herbs and spices being discarded), reduced and then retained for further use. I froze mine.

Pre-heat your oven to 170 deg C (340 deg F). Now to construct the pie: take a 23 cm deep pie dish and line it with a 6-8mm thick layer of puff pastry. We are going to have three layers of pig’s head meat and 3 layers of sliced potato. Start by taking a third of the meat and evenly spread over the pie base. Now take a third of the parsley and sliced garlic and sprinkle over the meat and season with salt and pepper. Now add an overlapping layer of sliced potato. Repeat this layer process another two times. The filling may seem too much but it will shrink when cooking. Now roll out the rest of the puff pastry and cover the pie with it. Seal the edges by pushing the pastry with your thumb around the circumference. Prick the top a few times with a fork and then wash the top with the beaten egg. Put in the oven for two hours. The pie is ready when the potato surrenders to a skewer.

 

Now the pig’s ears have cooled, slice very thinly. Heat the oil in a deep pan until it reaches about 170 deg C (340 deg F). Now, in batches, add the sliced pig’s ear. This is the most difficult part of the dish as:

1)      They will spit vehemently when added to the oil, so really take care.

2)      If they are not continually agitated (stirred) they will stick together in a congealed mess and will not crisp up.

Don’t be tempted to try a big batch at once or they will stick. After a few minutes the ear slices will become crispy. Drain on paper towel.

 

For the vinaigrette, bash the garlic with the salt in a mortar and pestle. Add the mustard, lemon juice and vinegar and mix and grind in the mortar and pestle until consistent. Now add the mix to a large bowl and in a steady stream add the olive oil whilst whisking away. The vinaigrette should be a nice emulsion. Add the black pepper to taste.

 

For the Salad, add the crispy pig’s ears, sorrel, spinach, parsley and capers to a bowl and then add 3 tablespoons of the vinaigrette dressing. Mix well – hands work great. Taste and adjust the amount of dressing according to your taste.

When the pie is ready serve a slice with the salad. The variety in texture and flavour of the meat will surely wow you.

Vietnam – Sing for your Sapa

I was talking to some other traveller about taking a cook class in Sapa, and she replied that she cooked Vietnamese already as she had two Vietnamese cookbooks back at home. I thought about this and retorted that I don’t believe anybody has ever cooked Vietnamese until they have cooked it in Vietnam. I likened it to learning a language. You can learn a language from a teacher or textbook, but it is not until you speak to people in their native language, usually in the country of origin of the language you are learning, that you can truly speak the language. Why? Because most of language is about culture – something you cannot pick up through study but by practical application. And so I told the traveller that I believed that cooking was the same – there is a culture about it, as well as the variations in availability and quality of ingredients. With this is mind, and given that I already have two Vietnamese cookbooks thus making me a Vietnamese chef, it was time to take a cooking class, and Sapa was the perfect place to do it. The traveller I was talking to also decided she was going to take a class before leaving Sapa!

The place that offered the cooking courses was a hotel/ café (Sapa Rooms) in the main drag of Sapa, 30 metres away from the food market. The inside was best described as contemporary hippie, and at the end of a long wooden table was a feisty but personable and well-dressed Vietnamese girl – with an Apple Mac, bookkeeping ledgers, a large diary and a credit card reader – a very good set-up for a remote hill station in north-west Vietnam. The cooking classes were for a minimum of two people, and as this is winter in Vietnam, there were no other takers, so my wife and I decided to do the cooking course together, with kids in tow.

 

Road Coming in to Sapa

Road Coming in to Sapa

 

We arrived early next morning at Sapa Rooms, and met Cường, the chef who was to be our guide and mentor for the day. He was a young man in his early twenties from a town called Haiphong (a sea port), who had studied to be a chef at the famous KOTO (Know One Teach One) restaurant school in Hanoi – KOTO was set up by its founder Jimmy Pham, whose mission was, and is, to train disadvantaged kids and street kids in areas of hospitality in order to give them a chance to have a career and live their dreams. It’s a similar concept to Jamie Oliver’s 15 restaurants. Cường had moved around in chef jobs since graduating from KOTO and had ended up in Sapa. His dream is to work as a chef in Dubai.

Our first port of call was the market where Cường showed us around and answered any culinary questions we had. It was a real education to understand what the different herbs and the green leaf vegetables were and how they formed a major part of life for the residents of Sapa and more importantly to the nearby hill tribes of the region. He pointed out some green tea, something I had only ever seen in its dried form, and bought a bunch and said “I will make you some later”.  The market at Sapa is fairly compact, but it offers a wonderful range of local produce: from oranges, sour apples, mangosteens, rambutan, strawberries, mangoes and green papaya to green tea, wood-ear mushrooms, corn, a variety of green leaves and lettuce, perilla leaves, Vietnamese mint, garlic chives, bean shoots, mung beans, coriander and Asian basil.

 

Produce at Sapa Market

Produce at Sapa Market

 

Rambutan in Sapa Market

Rambutan at Sapa Market

 

Greens at Sapa Market

Greens at Sapa Market

 

Mushrooms at Sapa Market

Mushrooms at Sapa Market

 

Fresh Fruit at Sapa Market

Fresh Fruit at Sapa Market

 

Then there are the varieties of rice such as sticky rice, wild red rice and the common local long grain rice, dried mushrooms, buffalo meat, shrimp, beans and pulses, and cuttlefish (which was probably the only non-local product).

 

Dried Shrimp at Sapa Market

Dried Shrimp at Sapa Market

 

Dried Buffalo Hanging at Sapa Market

Dried Buffalo Hanging at Sapa Market

 

Chickens on Display at Sapa Market

Chickens on Display at Sapa Market

 

Finally, we went through the meat market where laid out on huge wooden tables was buffalo, wild pig and cow(beef) meat. In fact every part of each animal was laid out on the tables. On another table there was large container of plucked chickens, all with their feet in the air, including the legendary blue chicken – with its blue feet and legs.

On the final table was the most confronting; dog meat, including the skinned head, with its gnashers(teeth) showing. Although I am not in any hurry to try dog meat I fully appreciate, having been in Hanoi for nearly a month, the importance end even prestige that it has in northern Vietnamese culture. These dogs, just like cattle, are bred specifically for consumption and so in that sense are clean and hygienic.

After such an insightful visit around the market, the next stop was 7km from Sapa, down in the valley, to a mountain retreat for the cooking lesson. This particular day was quite chilly and when we arrived we realised that we were cooking outdoors. To be honest it was a beautifully constructed wooden shelter, complete with kitchen and portable coal fires. For all those famous chefs that have done their on location cooking in far and exotic places, I am sure that very few would have had such a peaceful, picturesque and ‘fresh’ environment like this to cook in. As we looked out we could see, through the mist, the stepped rice fields wending their way in to the valley. Simply put it was stunning.

View of Rice Fields from Sapa Cooking Class

View of Rice Fields from Sapa Cooking Class

 

So what were we going to cook? The menu was simple, but the balance of flavours and wonderful local produce made it very special: rice paper rolls with chicken and shrimp; green papaya salad; chicken fried with lemongrass and chilli; and finally for desert, sweet potato and tapioca with sweet coconut chips.

 

Fresh Ingredients for Sapa Cooking Class

Fresh Ingredients for Sapa Cooking Class

 

Spices and Sauces for Sapa Cooking Class

Spices and Sauces for Sapa Cooking Class

 

I will put the recipes on here, so won’t go into the details of each dish in this post, but suffice to say that Cường took us through the dishes with simplicity and precision, explaining what each ingredient was and how it was contributing to the dish.

Our lunch was what we had cooked/ prepared. Vietnamese, like a lot of South East Asian food, is about the balance between salt (fish sauce or soy sauce), sweet (refined sugar or palm sugar), and sour (rice vinegar and citrus fruit juice such as lime).  So from the dipping sauce for the spring rolls to the salad dressing for the papaya salad I had never had such a wonderful balance of flavours; flavours that were enhanced with the freshness and intensity from the likes of the pungent garlic, the tart mango and papaya and, in the salad, the quite incredible dried beef which had a wonderful sweetness to it.

 

Spring Rolls in Sapa Cooking Class

Spring Rolls in Sapa Cooking Class

 

Spring Rolls and Green Papaya Salad from Sapa Cooking Class

Spring Rolls and Green Papaya Salad from Sapa Cooking Class

The fried chicken dish exuded the majestic flavour and smell of lemongrass with that impish kick of chilli. Finally, the sweet potato desert, that only worked when you ate it with the coconut chips, finished off a memorable experience. And of course we were treated to the fresh green tea, which seemed to have a digestive power about it, as well as it cleaning the palate.

After the meal we sat for an hour on a very cold day around hot coals warming our hands and feet, and reflected on a perfect day, whilst looking out on perfect country.

Panoramic View from Sapa Cooking Class

Panoramic View from Sapa Cooking Class

Slow Cooked Roast Beef with Spinach, Sorrel and Truss Cherry Tomato Salad

Introduction:

I remember the days of roast beef when I was a nipper (Northern England parlance for young child) – endless chewing on what could only have originally been a precursor to boot leather. It wasn’t a pleasant experience, and was only offset by the saviour of Yorkshire Puddings and gravy. However, as the years have passed on this mortal coil beef has morphed in to a far more pleasant experience for me. Not only have I personally learnt a lot about the preparation and cooking of the meat, but I think the influences from chefs out there have shown us that this staple of the carnivorous can be transformed in to a dish that is flavoursome and delicate. Also in my younger years there was a fear in the consumption of ‘uncooked’ or ‘semi-cooked’ meat due to health reasons, and that in part has rescinded.

One of main tests of a cook or chef is being able to cook a steak perfectly, which I will at some point embellish on in another blog post. For now, I wanted to share this gargantuan of steak dishes – the very slow roasted rib of beef. It’s been inspired by Heston Blumenthal and by Harold McGee, the amazing writer and food scientist that has challenged a lot of the traditional ways of cooking by understanding the science of what happens in the kitchen and applying practical theories to better prepare food.

This dish takes over a day to prepare. The technique used here is to slowly roast the meat so that the internal temperature reaches 50 deg C. For the heat to transfer to the middle of the meat takes time, but in doing so slowly there is no chance of over cooking the beef, as with the traditional boot leather method. Also the slow cooking helps to retain the moisture in the meat as well as break down the connective tissues (sinew). It is one that I have made twice, and one that I still want to play around with. For example, does the beef need to be cooked for so long? But whatever the answer, there is no denying that using this method steak has taken on a new and untouchable level of culinary pleasure.

To accompany the beef I wanted something simple so I serve it with a beurre noisette, or brown butter, and a cracking little salad that just came to me one day.

 

Serves: 3 very good portioned steaks   |   Preparation:  30 minutes   |   Cooking: 24 hours + 4 hours resting

 

Ingredients:

For the Beef
Weight is variable but about 1.6kg A 3-boned rib of beef | If you can buy aged meat it will improve the quality of the final dish.
30g in total Salt and pepper mix | Equal measures of sea salt, smoked salt and black peppercorns. If you don’t have smoked salt then replace it with sea salt.
5 tbsp. Grapeseed oil | Used for frying.

For the Beurre Noisette
100g French Butter | French butter has something magical about it. I use Lescure unsalted.

For the Salad
2-3 handfuls Baby Spinach | I am lucky to have this growing in the garden – it is so good.
About 10-15 large leaves Sorrel | This has a wonderful citrusy kick to it – again something I grow in the garden.
12 or so Truss Cherry Tomatoes | I get these on the vine as they seem to have more flavour, but there is no real need to.
A drizzle Caramelised balsamic vinegar | You can use a good aged balsamic instead. It brings the whole dish together.
To season Sea Salt |
A drizzle Olive Oil |

 

 

How To:

The first thing to note before starting this dish is that you need a good oven that can retain an average temperature of 50 degrees Centigrade. Also, an oven thermometer is vital to ensure that the oven is the correct temperature. My experience is never to trust the scale on an oven temperature adjuster. Set the oven temperature to 50 deg C (112 deg F).

Ensure the beef has had chance to come to room temperature; out of the fridge for about 2-3 hours. Take the three boned rib of beef, rinse the outside with cold water then dab dry with kitchen paper. Put a heavy based frying pan on high heat, heat until the pan is very hot and then add 3 tbsp of the grapeseed oil – the oil should be smoking once added. Now quickly sear the outside of the beef until browned. Take care as this spits like there’s no tomorrow. Also take care not to start cooking the flesh of the meat – it just needs browning.

Once browned put the beef in a roasting tray and then pop it in to the preheated oven. It takes about 4-6 hours for the centre of the meat to reach 50 deg C. Cook then for a further 18 hours. Get some sleep.

After the 18 hours are up, take the beef out. The outside will look dry and unappetising, but the inside will be beautifully medium rare and full of moisture. Put the meat on a rack over a drip tray, cover with foil and leave to rest for about 4 hours. Once rested, cut the meat from the bone, cutting down along the ribs and then across the chine (backbone). Carefully trim away the dry outer of the meat and then cut the meat into three equally thick steaks. Set aside and put your heavy based frying pan on high heat again.

For the salad pre-heat your oven to 210 deg C. To a roasting tray add the cherry tomatoes, on the vine if yours have a vine, sprinkle with the sea salt and then drizzle with olive oil. Use your hands to ensure the tomatoes are completed coated with oil. Put in the oven for about 20 minutes. They will eventually sizzle and spit as they soften and their skins split. After 20 minutes, or when you feel they are done, take out of the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes.

For the salt and pepper mix add the salt(s) and peppercorns to a mortar and grind with a pestle. The back pepper should still be a little course. Sprinkle each steak (both sides) with the pepper mix, add the rest of the grapeseed oil to the hot pan and when smoking put the steaks in the pan. Cook for 30 seconds, and then turn. Repeat this until the steaks have been cooking for 4 minutes (I then put the steaks on their edge to render any fat – for about 20 seconds). Remove the steaks from the pan, cover with foil and leave to rest on a rack with drip tray, for about 5 minutes.

To finish the salad, add the washed and dried spinach leaves to a bowl. Stack the sorrel leaves, roll the stack lengthways and then shred across the width – this technique is known as chiffonade. Add the shredded sorrel to the spinach, then pick the vines from the tomatoes and add the tomatoes to the salad. Drizzle balsamic over the salad, and then get your hands in there to coat the leaves with the juices of the tomatoes and the balsamic – it’s good to squash those tomatoes gently.

Finally drain any oil from the steak pan, put back on a medium heat and add the butter. Whisk the butter until it has melted and has turned a lovely nutty brown colour.

Serve the steak and salad in your own creative way, and spoon that unctuous nutty brown butter over the steak. Bon appetite!

Notes:

  •  If any come to me I’ll add them here